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Teeth and the Importance of Speech: Why Do People Need Teeth?

Health professionals agree on the importance of healthy teeth as vital not only to oral health and survival, but also for speech and communication. Babies develop teeth in infancy and lose these teeth a few years later. Teeth during those early stages help not only in the assimilation of eating and digesting solid foods, but also during the vital stage of speech development and learning their native language. During childhood, when a child loses a tooth or multiple teeth at a given time the child may find it more difficult to communicate until adult teeth fully develop and grow in. Children may sometimes develop a temporary speech impediment that they outgrow with age.

Adult teeth help to aid in chewing, eating, swallowing, and, in some cases of necessary defense, biting. In addition, teeth allow people to communicate effectively. The palate, tongue, and fully-developed teeth linguistically help to correctly pronounce a variety of sounds and phonemes.

To better explain our statements, let’s do a little exercise:

Make a “TH” sound as in the word “therapy.” Now cover your teeth with your lips (as if you had no teeth, only gums) and try repeating “therapy.” The word sounds differently.

Now try making the “s” sound as in “snake.” Again cover your teeth with your lips pulled taunt to imitate a toothless oral cavity and repeat “snake.” Sound funny, right?


  • ucla
  • Weill Cornell Medical College - Cornell University
  • Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • John Hopkins Medicine
  • University of maryland
  • USC

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